It’s been a few days since you’ve seen a friend. You meet up for coffee at your go-to Starbucks on campus.
Coffees in hand and camped out in the far corner of the shop, you are eager to learn about your friend’s latest news and hopeful about the conversation that lies ahead.
“How are you? What is new with you? How is your internship? What are your classes? How are your other clubs?” you ask, eager and intrigued to listen.
The questions pour out, effortlessly flowing from the previous answer to the following enquiry.
Your friend glances at the time, losing track of it throughout the encounter. “I have my next class but let’s do this soon! It was great to catch up,” She says as she gathers up her belongings and heads out the door.
It was nice to catch up… right? You know that her internship is skyrocketing, her organic chemistry class is the bane of her existence, and her friend from high school is coming to campus in eight days. But, what about you? At the end of the conversation, you are not rejuvenated, but exhausted. For an hour and a half, you were a sponge, diligently absorbing your friend’s every thought, feeling, and word. You are overflowing. You have your friend’s thoughts and feelings recently consumed, as well as your own feelings and life problems. However, these were left concealed and untouched throughout the entire conversation.
Eventually, you find yourself in a friendship that requires much more giving instead of receiving. You are elated to be the shoulder to cry on, the ear to listen, or the voice to give advice. But, who do you turn to celebrate a successful internship, or to vent about a difficult class or to share excitement about a close friend’s visit? Eventually, you ache for a friend to ask you how you are doing purely because he or she genuinely wants to know. Your friend chooses to listen. Your friend chooses to give rather than receive.
Ideally, a friendship is 50-50: 50 percent “give” and 50 percent “take.” However, if the balancing act becomes uneven, then it’s time to take action. Communication is always a good start to salvage the friendship and to hopefully create something that was better than before. Your friend may be unaware that you are feeling this way, and addressing the issue is all that is necessary to build the friendship that you both deserve.
Another means to handle this type of friendship is to invest in yourself. Are you neglected and reserved in several of your relationships? If so, it may be time to have self-reflection and self-development. Explore your world, learn something you’ve always been intrigued by, travel to places you’ve never been but always wanted to go, challenge yourself. Invest in your passions and interests so that you learn more about your identity. Along the way, you will gain the confidence necessary to assert yourself in relationships that were originally intimidating and unfulfilling.
However, it is easy to fall into the dangerous cycle of being hopeful. “She will change, she will care, she will ask about me… next time.” You wait until next time, to eventually be disappointed. The cut is deeper and the disappointment overwhelms more than ever before.
If you find yourself continuously fatigued after conversation and reserved about your own life, it is time to reevaluate the friendship entirely. Everyone has a scarce amount of social energy, energy that is allotted to friends, family, acquaintances and beyond. Because of this, you and only you have the power to invest in people that you want in your life. You have the power to minimize the amount of time and energy invested in a friendship purely because it is too exhausting. You have the power determine who stays and who leaves in your life.
Now it’s time to take action. Now is the time to recognize that you have a voice in these relationships. And now is the time to use it. You have the voice to say, “hey, I really wanted to share this with you,” or, “I have something to say now.” You have the power to keep people in your life that bring light, and remove others that bring pain. In fact, you have the obligation to yourself to do so.